The Pensions Regulator has warned the NHS needs to take action now to be ready for the start of the government’s auto-enrolment pension scheme.

The largest NHS organisations will begin auto-enrolment from March next year but the regulator has said a minority of trusts are at risk of underestimating the amount of work involved.

It has told HSJ there is a “lack of ownership” among some senior management teams in relation to the issue.

Auto-enrolment is designed to help individuals save for their retirement with contributions made by both employee and employer. It will apply to those aged over 22 and who earn a minimum of £8,105.

While the vast majority of NHS staff are members of the NHS Pension Scheme a small number are not eligible and will need to be auto-enroled into an alternative scheme. This includes staff who already have maximum service - for instance those who have retired but return to work - under the NHS scheme, or are already receiving a pension.

Any worker who has fluctuating earnings or a zero hour contract will need to be automatically enrolled into a pension scheme if they pass the minimum earnings threshold.

Darren Ryder, employer compliance manager at the Pensions Regulator, said: “There is a lack of ownership from some of the senior management teams.

“Trusts need to set up project teams, involve payroll, IT software, HR and some trusts, a minority, are not recognising how significant a piece of work it is to implement. Some larger private sector companies have taken 18 months to implement auto-enrolment.”

Gill Bellord, director of employment relations at NHS Employers, said: “We have been working with the regulator and engaging with NHS trusts to clarify what the new duties mean for the NHS.

“The number of staff working in the NHS that are not eligible to join the NHS Pension Scheme is very small and the cost implications for employers will depend on the numbers of staff who elect to remain within the alternative arrangements provided to them.”